Evyn Brings California Sunshine to Chicago
Written by Vocalo Radio on October 17, 2022
Hailing from the sunny shores of Southern California, singer/songwriter Evyn has found freedom to expand in Chicago.
Originally moving to Chicago from Los Angeles after watching artists like Mother Nature and Saba flourish in the city’s scene, young R&B singer Evyn sees Chicago as just as strong a music city as Los Angeles. Despite moving to the city in 2019 — right before venues began shuttering — Evyn has found her way into the Chicago music scene, performing on stages across Chicagoland ranging from dive bars to Lollapalooza.
Though she made a place for herself in the Windy City, Evyn still misses her SoCal home. Written during a period of nostalgia while missing the West Coast, “Malibu,” featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for September, makes listeners feel like summer lasts all year. The meditative song captures the bright, sunny essence of Evyn’s happy place through vivid imagery of ocean surroundings wrapped in a silky smooth R&B sound.
“It reminds you that there are things bigger than you and your situation that are far greater than we can comprehend,” Evyn explained.
“I have grown a sense of peace in knowing that the purpose is to paint a setting, an experience in which you can breathe and allow it to envelop you, almost like a blanket,” she remarked on the song’s production.
Recently, we heard from Evyn on her transition to Chicago from LA, playing Lollapalooza and her anti-routine songwriting process.
You’re originally from LA! Are you originally from there? If not, where did you grow up and why did you move to LA?
Yes I am! Directly from the 818. It’s kind of funny when people ask where I’m from and they aren’t from LA, I’ll claim LA. But people who are actually from there only refer downtown as LA. Everything else is just Los Angeles. So depending on who you ask, yes and no.
When did you move to Chicago?
I moved to Chicago initially in the second half of 2019. I moved here right before COVID did, so I was able to peek a little bit at how Chicago was pre-quarantine. A good amount of my time here has unfortunately been during COVID closures. Nevertheless, happy and grateful that everything is back up and running for the most part. It’s a beautiful city, for sure.
What made you want to move across the country to Chicago? How have you adjusted to the Windy City?
In all honesty, I kind of had my eye on Chicago for a minute. I would see that all of the newly emerging artists that I had loved at the time, like Noname, Smino, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Kweku Collins, Mother Nature, all of them were rooted here in Chicago. I add Smino in that list, because even though he’s originally from St. Louis, I know he spent a healthy amount of time here in Chicago and it had supplemented his artistry a little. I also loved the respect for poetry and culture as well. When it was time for me to go to college, a cousin of mine referred me to Columbia. I immediately saw that as a sign from the divine. I would see buses passing with “The Chi” ads and “Chicago P.D.” popping up on the TV, and was like, “Yeah this is where it’s at.” There’s a huge hub of talent and artistry here that I feel like is slept on, and so I wanted to explore it and learn from it as well.
Compare the music scenes of LA and Chicago. What are the major similarities and differences you’ve noticed from working in music in both cities?
The main differences within the regions, I would say, is how their process works. Everything in LA is industry-driven. There’s a lot of responsibility when you’re working in LA, because of the fact that it’s not only a huge entertainment pillar in the country, but it also carries a thick influence on international media as well. There are opportunities left and right for professional work and connections, but it’s extremely competitive, especially when most of the people working in LA aren’t from LA. Everyone’s working their asses off to stay there, because that’s how they eat. It’s all about what you’ve done and who you know. Because of this mindset, as well as how dense the music game is out there, you find that a lot of people will sound the same or assimilate another artist because they see it’s winning. Numbers run the game.
Granted, there is most definitely organic creativity flowing endlessly there, but the pressure can be suffocating, for sure. That’s one of the main reasons I decided to move to Chicago. A lot of upcoming artists here are independent, allowing them to have that extra time to be able to breathe with the art they’ve created and embellish upon it instead of just giving fast food, you feel me?
As someone who worked in the industry professionally in Los Angeles as a session vocalist and writer, I wanted to develop my solo career in a different environment. One where I know that I’d have the freedom to expand and learn what I like and don’t like. It’s definitely a self-discovery process. Chicago is that womb for me. With all of the musical history in all genres, there’s a lot of retention happening on my end. For Chicago’s being less dense and less industry, it allows for more exploration, less competition and more collaborations. Hopefully when I get back, I can bring some of those ethics and characteristics back with me as well, giving Chicago the credit and respect it deserves.
You’ve already played Lollapalooza, at the Bonus Tracks Stage! What was it like playing such a huge festival?
A blessing is an understatement. Complete gratitude released in the atmosphere, for sure. Was I nervous? Yes, absolutely. It was my first time ever being at Lollapalooza, and I got to be on stage, which was wild — all thanks to Fusion of Light Entertainment. The experience definitely made me want to work harder. Being there also kind of made me uncomfortable, because I didn’t feel like I worked for it as much as the other people in the room. I know I didn’t work as hard as I could. Every day since that set, I take time practicing my stage presence and poise. I have dedicated myself to rebuild other musicalities I have possessed over the years as well to aid me in making music that is emotionally conducive.
It was a great learning experience to be able to see how other artists, who are in positions that I’ll be in, present their music, interact with the crowd and find their own flow state. It was inspiring, nevertheless, to be able to talk with those artists and pick their brain. I asked a lot of “how do you…” questions that weekend. I also got to meet some really genuine people and pure souls with the same goals and mindset as I, which I can’t ask for more.
Tell us the story behind “Malibu,” which was featured on Vocalo’s September “In Rotation” playlist. What motivated you to write this song?
I started writing “Malibu” in March after — what felt like, to me — a long winter. I was thinking about how much I missed the sun and watching its golden denouement. The sky would turn orange and the sun a honey color. All of this would reflect off the ocean by making the water a vibrant crystal blue. I would imagine how my life was in 90-degree weather back home in the 818, hanging with friends after school, drinking a bottle of Malibu and having fun.
This can turn into a lyrical breakdown easily but in short, whenever my mental wasn’t the healthiest or I felt like I needed to get away, I would ask my dad to take me to Malibu, because I didn’t have a car at the time. And when we got there, we’d just sit and watch the water and the surfers. I actually used to surf back home, so I loved observing other people surf sometimes, too. Staring at the ocean and watching its natural energy tunnel and speak in languages we call waves is a very meditative practice. It reminds you that there are things bigger than you and your situation that are far greater than we can comprehend. It’s very comforting that way.
Walk us through your creative process. When you write a song, where do you start? How do you get in the mood to make music, or does inspiration just strike at random?
To be honest, I’m an adamant opponent of routine. I see the beauty in it, but I feel trapped in it… I’m a Gemini. Therefore, the process will always be random. Music is the only situation in which I will act on my heart-mind over my logistic intellect.
With music, I normally start off with the production first and then hone in to how the music makes me feel and what I think the vibrations are communicating. I don’t mean to be wordy, but this is the best way I know to explain it. Next, I would croon over the music until I’ve found a melody that sits right where it belongs. Then I’ll meditate on how I feel surrounding the concept being communicated.
People forget that vocals are just another instrument within the band. When you start seeing the vocalist as the star of the show, that is a crucial missed opportunity for collective continuity and intangible kinship. The most important part of music is the fact that it is a collective collaboration. With that in mind, I write my music with enough ventilation so that listeners can feel, and add in as well where they see fit. I never want to take up space. Rapport is crucial.
After I make the melody, I’ll add words that flow in that and sync as well. There are only a few times where the lyrics have come first, but I just feel like it’s a little unnatural to build around if there are other people involved and they aren’t on the same wavelength. Trying to force your own agenda on music is also a blockage, for sure
You recently shared a stage with Chicago artist Rich Robbins at Oaktoberfest! Tell us a little bit about that experience.
I love Rich and hold him close. He’s an amazing human being and I love being able to vibe out with him. We’ve had a few sessions where I got the opportunity to lay vocal bedding for some of his tracks, and he makes it easy for me to feel his message. Sharing the stage with him and so many other talented artists and creators was exhilarating and inspiring.
Your production is absolutely stellar and carries a lot of depth. Do you produce your own music? How did you get into production? Or, if you don’t produce your own music, do you have a favorite producer to work with?
I am very involved in the production process, as I do want to make it my own, in a sense. A lot, if not all, of my songs have been touched by me on the production side. For “Malibu,” my brother LawBeatz over at Complex was showing me some tracks he’d been working on and played this. I instantly fell in love and knew the direction. The only addition I made in it was the format of some of the components as well as subtle accents in the music, like the ocean waves and the seagull call — depending on the type of system you’re listening on.
With the production, I have grown a sense of peace in knowing that the purpose is to paint a setting, an experience in which you can breathe and allow it to envelop you, almost like a blanket. I will also never see a beat as a throw-away, but rather one that can be developed. With some of my other music — and those to come — you will actually hear chords I play and certain melodic elements I provide as well. It’s actually kind of funny, because I do produce myself, but never really for myself, but I’m working on it.
What do you feel is your signature, the thing that sets you apart from other artists?
Me — I feel like I am the signature that’s different. Two people can have the same story and tell it the exact same way, but will be received differently due to their energy signatures. Many people will say that I’m different through my melodies and the way I approach the beat. Some say it’s the airy-ness and buoyancy within my voice, others will say it’s my flow. I don’t know, though. I think it just comes from the purity of my intent, but then again I can’t exactly compare myself with anyone else because I don’t have a bird’s eye view, so it’s hard. I normally like to leave it up to the listeners. What’s normal to me might be different to you, you know?
What’s on your 2022 music bucket list before the year wraps up?
Oh man, a lot of music. I have so many songs that I find setting for the fall and winter season. I also have some people who recently expressed interest in growing my vicinity, so I’m excited to see where that goes. I also really like the idea of having more visualizers to help with the continuation of telling the story introduced in my music, so that is definitely in the works as well. A few other things would be to try and meet as many beautiful and genuine people as I can to enter the New Years with. I also want to master making the perfect jalapeño margarita.
Anything new coming that fans should be on the lookout for?
A lot of music releases, a lot of shows on higher platforms and deeper introductions. The collaborations will also go crazy as well!
Follow Evyn on Instagram and stream her music on Spotify below.
Introduction and interview by Makenzie Creden
Edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
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